15 September 2011 Can’t Live Without ‘Em: Florida Manatee Posted by: James Randolph | Leave a comment | Share: A weekly homage to endangered species, large and small They’re big, slow, and always hungry. But they’re also absolutely irresistible, and we can’t help but love them. People travel across the country and from all over the world to Florida in hopes of glimpsing the majestic manatee. These slow-moving marine mammals can weigh more than 1,200 pounds and grow to nearly 10 feet in length. They eat sea grass and other aquatic vegetation they find in the warm coastal waters. Manatees require warm water to survive which is why they congregate predominantly in Florida year-round, although they’ve been spotted in waters as far north as Massachusetts in recent years and in waters throughout eastern Texas. This can also be their downfall, however, since man-made sources of warm waters such as power plant discharges also attract manatees. Although they have no natural predators, these graceful giants have long had to fight for survival against threats like climate change and boat collisions. In 1967, the manatees were listed as an endangered species under a precursor to the Endangered Species Act, primarily as a result of habitat loss which remains a serious concern. Today experts estimate that there are about 5,000 manatees remaining in the United States. Manatee mother and calf swim side-by-side. Manatee money-tree Manatees are Florida’s official state marine mammal. Possibly as a gesture of gratitude, these massive mammals bring in millions of dollars in tourism revenue annually. Visitors flock to two places in particular to catch a glimpse–Blue Spring State Park and Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, where manatees are attracted to the warmer temperatures during winter months. Combined, the two parks draw nearly 400,000 visitors each year from outside their respective counties who spend in excess of $20 million. That revenue supports nearly 400 tourism-related jobs with a payroll of more than $5 million. Read more in Defenders’ Conservation Pays report. To learn more about manatees, check out Defenders’ profile or the USFWS’ fact sheet. Post Your Comment Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) Mail (required) (will not be published) You May also be interested in Wolf Weekly Wrap- Up California wavering on protection for gray wolves under state law; Defenders of Wildlife featured on the HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell show tonight; A close up look at the science: wolf breeding pairs in Idaho; bad bills for Mexican gray wolves in Arizona. The Votes Are In… You voted, and we listened – now the winners of Defenders’ 2014 Photo Contest are here! See if your favorite won, and take a look at some of the amazing runner-ups. We’ve Got to Protect What’s Left of the Sagebrush Sea New research shows that after a fire, the Sagebrush Sea (home to the imperiled greater sage-grouse) could take up to 20 years to fully recover. With other factors already threatening so much of this habitat, what does that mean for the species that call it home?